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Effective Feb. 1, Norfolk Southern Corp. will consolidate its Virginia and Pocahontas divisions to form a new Pocahontas Division, with its headquarters in Roanoke, Va., the Class I announced yesterday.The consolidation is part of the company's efforts to improve operating efficiency and support long-term growth, according to an NS press release. The announcement comes on the heels of other recent measures, including the reduction from three corporate office locations to two; the restructuring of the Triple Crown Services subsidiary; and the integration of the D&H South Line to increase options for shippers. In a related move, NS also will change traffic patterns and idle part of its "West Virginia Secondary," a 253-mile line between Columbus, Ohio, and central West Virginia, which has faced steady declines in business in recent years. In Sept. 2015, NS idled a 33-mile mainline between Elmore and Princeton, W.Va.The new Pocahontas Division will comprise 2,581 route miles, mainly in Virginia and West Virginia, extending from the Port of Virginia to Portsmouth, Ohio, and from Bristol, Va., to Hagerstown, Md."Creation of the new Pocahontas Division supports the railroad’s strategic plan to deliver cost-efficient and superior service while building a stronger enterprise," said Mike Wheeler, senior vice president operations. "Consolidating the two divisions enables us to streamline operations and focus resources on high-return growth opportunities."Charles "Mike" Irvin will lead the new division. A 33-year NS employee, Irvin has experience managing several divisions for the railroad.The consolidation will affect management and office staff positions currently based in Bluefield, W.Va. Those employees will have an opportunity to relocate to Roanoke or apply for other jobs within the company, NS officials said.The company did not disclose the number of jobs that will be affected.NS will continue to operate the Bluefield rail yard, where coal comprises most of the business handled there. Yard traffic has dropped over the past year. About 130 people work in the yard's operations departments, including transportation, engineering and mechanical."Coal mined from the Appalachian Basin has long served as a vital, low-cost source of energy to power America, and Norfolk Southern remains committed to providing top-notch service to our valuable coal customers," Wheeler said. "At the same time, the railroad is nimble and adapts to changing market conditions."
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